Sen. Barbara Mikulski announced Monday that she will not seek a sixth term in the U.S. Senate.
There was “nothing gloomy about the announcement,” she said. “There’s no health problem,” and “I’m not frustrated with the Senate; the Senate will always be what the Senate is.”
But, she said, “I had to ask myself who am I campaigning for? Am I campaigning for me, or am I campaigning for my constituents? Fighting for my job or fighting for their job? Do I spend my time raising money or raising hell?”
By the end of her current term, on Dec. 31, 2016, she will have served more than 30 years.
In an emotional announcement, Mikulski thanked the people of Maryland for “the trust that they have given” her and thanked Sens. Ben Cardin and Paul Sarbanes for their support and strong partnership over the years.
“First and foremost I look at this an opportunity to celebrate an incredible record of a remarkable person who has made a permanent positive mark on our political system,” said Cardin, who was at the announcement. “But I must tell you, this is bittersweet for me. It will leave an incredible void because she’s been a real powerful force for our state.”
When asked what was her proudest moment serving the people of Maryland, she said there was “no job too big or too small,” whether it was removing stigmatized language in reference to special-needs children or listening to the financial needs of firefighters and ultimately engaging Republicans to create a national funding program. “My best ideas have come from the people –listening to the people, knowing what their needs are, responding to that need and trying to turn it into national policy,” she said.
Congressman John Sarbanes, the son of Paul Sarbanes, called Mikulski a political force in Maryland and on Capitol Hill.
“Breaking glass ceilings and fighting for working families, her career is nothing short of historic,” he said in a statement. “I am among the many Marylanders who feel privileged to have benefited from her outstanding service. We wish her all the best in her well-deserved retirement.”
On Jan. 5, 2011, when she was sworn into the 112th Congress, Mikulski became the longest-serving woman in U.S. Senate history.
“Though I’m turning a new page.” said Mikulski, “make no mistake, we’re not writing the last chapter.”
Melissa Gerr is a senior staff reporter at our sister publication, Baltimore Jewish Times.